..."alive" after death in the HB?
furuli at online.no
furuli at online.no
Sat Dec 21 10:57:44 EST 2002
There is no doubt that the peoples around ancient Israel believed
that some part of man (or perhaps the whole man, cf "Ishtars descent
to the netherworld") survived death. The Babylonians also believed
that the ETEMMU of man "man's spirit" could return to earth. In
addition they believed in the existence of gods and demons.
I have for many years studied Babylonian, Sumerian, and Ugaritic
accounts dealing with creation, man, the netherworld etc. My
impression is that there is a great difference between these accounts
and those found in the Hebrew Bible. The writers of the Hebrew Bible
believed in the existence of many gods (Exodus 20:3). However, the
nature of this belief was different from that of the nations around.
These writers believed in one group who were gods in a generic, but
not in a religious (=they should not be worshiped) sense, namely, the
so-called "angels". They believed in another group who were gods both
in a generic and a religious sense, namely, the SHE:DIM, the demons
(Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 136:36,37), and they believed in YHWH, God
almighty, who was the one who should be worshiped.
Their belief in gods should be kept in mind when we read 1 Samuel 28.
Another important point is the difference between an account of
something and a statement about something. When a Bible translation
translate )I++IM in Isaiah 19.3. as "the spirits of the dead", this
is an account, because it represents the words and belief of the
prophet. However, When Matthew (14:26) says (NIV) "When the disciples
saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost,"
they said, and cried out in fear", or the Hebrew NT says RUA:X
RE:PF)IM HI, this is a report and not the statement of Matthew.
1 Samuel 28 is a report of what king Saul asked and what the medium
saw and said. It is the medium who used the word "god", which could
have been applied in a generic and/or religious sense. Even the use
of the word "Samuel" need not imply a view on the part of the writer
that Samuel the prophet actually was present. The first use of BE:NI
in 1 Kings 3:21 must for instance be taken in the sense "what
appeared to be my son". Thus the words in 1 Samuel 28 are in no way a
statement of the belief of the writer, or represent his viewpoint. He
evidently included this account because he deemed it important, and
if he entertained the belief in the SHE:DIM, he could have been
reminded of their existence by the use of the word "god" and could
have ascribed this spiritistic sèance to them as well. It is clear
from the Hebrew Bible that NEPESH dies and go back to the earth, and
I have never seen any passage in the Hebrew Bible which contradicts
the words of Ecclesiastes 3.19-20 that, as respects death, man is
like an animal, s/he goes to the same place as the animals and have
the same spirit. Thus neither RUA:X survived death, in the view of
the writers, so what was it that survived, according to the texts?
Univeersity of Oslo
> A few days ago Rolf Furuli wrote, inter alia, "There is no place in
>the OT which definitely show that dead persons are "alive" after
> What, then, is one to make of 1Samuel 28? Note also that the dead
>Samuel is described as "god", a strong argument for those who posit
>ancient cult of deified ancestor spirits.
> Uri Hurwitz
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